Spain’s left-wing government could help companies switch to four-day working week

Finance ministry considers pilot to provide aid to firms that make the switch

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Tuesday 24 November 2020 18:55 GMT
Spanish workers could soon have more time off
Spanish workers could soon have more time off (Getty Images)
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Workers in Spain could soon be enjoying a four day week under proposals being considered by the country's left-wing government.

The Spanish finance ministry is examining proposals to provide financial aid to companies that cut the working week to 32 hours with no loss of pay, as part of its 2021 budget.

The plan, which would initially be limited to a relatively small pilot, is among amendments being considered by the treasury as part of negotiations ahead of the budget.

The 50 million euro plan was proposed by small left-wing party Más País, whose support the government wants to pass the budget through parliament.

"Now that we have to rebuild our economy, Spain has the perfect opportunity to go for the four-day or 32-hour week," said Íñigo Errejón, an MP from the Más País party.

“It is a policy for the future that allows for an increase in the productivity of workers, improvements to physical and mental health and reduces our impact on the environment.

“We must put ourselves at the forefront of Europe as we did 100 years ago with the shift to an 8 hour working day.”

The proposal comes after the leftist regional government in Valencia included a similar item of expenditure in its draft budget, in order to progress its own roadmap to a four day week.

The Independent reported last year that the region was planning to pilot the idea in the public sector, with a grant system to help private employers adopt the same approach.

Valencia's employment service argues that cutting hours with no loss of pay would “transform” jobs and enable people to spend more time with their families – as well as raise productivity and employment.

The roadmap had been drawn up by economists from UK-based think-tank Autonomy. 

“It's fantastic to see that the Valencian government are building on our collaborative strategy document and taking this policy to the Spanish Treasury,” Will Stronge, director of Autonomy said.

"A coalition of progressive voices in Spain are now singing from the same hymn sheet. If successful, Spain would be well on the way to moving to a four working week and such a bold precedent would create significant ripple effects on firms and governments worldwide.

“The potential benefits of a shorter working could be huge; better mental health and wellbeing, work shared more equally across the economy, greater productivity and greater environmental sustainability."

Spain is governed by a coalition of the centre-left PSOE party and the smaller left-wing parties Podemos and United Left, with ad hoc support from other smaller parties, including Más País.

The idea of a four day week is gaining currency in Europe, with the policy backed by left-leaning politicians and trade unionists in a letter released earlier this month.

As the continent looks to the future after the Covid pandemic, it is among a number of radical ideas being piloted in various countries, ranging from a job guarantee in Austria to a universal basic income in Finland.

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